Giving & Gratitude

When it comes to kindness, there is absolutely no need to discriminate against any identifiable means because it is about humanity in general and acts of giving without any expectations of receiving in return.

For so long there has been a frustration of sorts building within me seeing the simplest things in life being taken for granted. Be it the roof over your heads, certain (branded) clothes being worn, the hot meals and comfy mattresses you lay upon, the NHS and free medicine being provided for us – the list is endless. The extremely close shave I experienced a couple of years ago taught me to take nothing for granted, now cherishing every little thing and being all around me.

“Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle” – Plato

For this reason, I am now trying my very best to spare a moment to remember those who may have been left outdoors, especially during those cold winter nights. Recently I, via the Tree House, have been able to appease that frustration of helplessness. In true spirit of the Tree House, this has meant this is now starting to catch on with other dwellers through their acts of kindness. So far, we have saved numerous left over meals and received donations of various kinds of cakes with which we approached homeless people and gave.

“Thank you” they gratefully say. And if they have a pet with them, they are more than happy to share with their “best friend” – Without a question.

Nigel and his best friend who enjoyed the leftovers from our Chinese meal.

There are those who had everything and lost it all and there are those who dedicate every minute of their remaining lives to make sure the homeless has a hot drink at least. They are among the unsung heroes of today’s societies. They are trying their very best in being the change they wish to see in the world.

So let us organise café meet ups with CAKE(!) donating to a charity of your choice, perhaps asking cafés to participate in “Suspended Coffee” schemes too. When you have a meal, please save your leftovers and seek out the homeless in order to make their day. Maybe even nominate/challenge your friends to pay it forwards too. Please?

One can only hope this act of compassion and kindness will help to keep them going, to keep the faith and to have hope. That not everyone has a stone cold heart, that they are not oblivious to everyday people. They are still someone’s child who were brought into this world for a reason.

A drop of kindness goes a very long way, much more than you realise.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ― Leo Buscaglia

 Carpe Diem – every day by being true to yourselves. x

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

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Hands on Ears by Danielle Williams

My name is Danielle Williams, I am 34, happily married to John and we have 4 beautiful children, Lewis 16, Charlie 10, George 4 and Alfie 4.

When my youngest son Alfie was 18 months old, he had a bad virus which affected his balance, his development and his hearing.

In November 2012 Alfie was diagnosed with profound deafness, it took a while for us to accept he would never hear again, we were devastated. Instead of focusing on the negatives we looked to all the positives.

When I would go to the supermarket with Alfie and his twin brother George they would attract attention from people, it would take me ages to get around the shop at times. I would get mixed reactions from people when I would tell them Alfie was deaf, some didn’t know how to react or I would get sympathy from others.

So on deaf awareness week 2014 I wanted to start a campaign to hopefully get people talking positively about deafness, so when Alfie gets older people would know how to react to him and his deafness.

I asked my husband John and my oldest children Lewis and Charlie if they could let me take a photo of them with their hands on their ears and I got mine taken too, so I could post it on Facebook to get people talking. The reason I chose the hands on ears pose was because Alfie would do this before he lost his hearing if something was too loud.

Within the hour I had people “liking” and commenting and even people were taking their own photos and posting them on Facebook, I could not believe it I was so overwhelmed by the positive reaction we were getting.

Then myself and John thought we should try and get some well-known celebrities involved, the next day I started asking people on Twitter to see if they would take a photo with their hands on their ears, it was a bit slow at first but then, Rachel Allen the TV chef sent me a photo, then I stared to get more and more, I got photos from Zoë ball and Norman Cook, Tanni Grey Thompson, Andi Peters and almost fell off the bed when I got a photo from Adam Richman from ‘Man v Food’ which was amazing.

I was so surprised when I got a call from John one afternoon when I was just about to collect the boys from nursery, he said I would never believe who has done a pic for the campaign, when he told me, I almost fell over, it was only the Red Arrows!!!! Because of that photo, my campaign got in the local papers and internet news sites, I also got invited into BBC radio Newcastle to go live on air, which I did, I was also on 3 other local radio stations.

I was still getting pics in from people for weeks afterwards but things started to quieten down for a while, until my son Lewis asked me if his NCS group could use the #handsonears campaign as their community action project, so of course I agreed.

They have done an amazing job promoting it, the group wrote and recorded a song, they all set up a Facebook page for the campaign, the target likes they had set page was 1000, they also held two awareness days in Durham:

On day one, they walked around and asked people to join in by having photos taken with their hand on ears and handed out information leaflets, I was amazed by what they achieved! On day two, they set up a stall, handed out more leaflets and performed the #handsonears song and got more photos of people to add to the ever growing collection. I have been informed that this was the most successful NCS community action project ever!!! The NCS want to continue to work with me as they love my campaign idea.

The Facebook page has 1,240 likes to date and is going really well, there are deaf and hearing people who are on the page; it is amazing how so many people are getting involved.

At the moment I am trying to put together a music video for the #handsonears song, it is going well so far, but I still need a few more volunteers and if you would like to volunteer, please visit our Facebook page for more information.

I for one am extremely excited to see the final video and I hope you are too. 🙂

Thank you to everyone, for being a part of the #handsonears campaign.

~ Danielle Williams.

https://www.facebook.com/handsonears

 

Deaf & Depressed by Kim Lucas

Following the tragic news of Robin Williams taking his own life, the issue of Mental Health comes into discussion.

There are many types of depression and the intensity will vary between each individual and their circumstances. As it’s something I’ve personally dealt with and continue too, I wanted to write something in the hope that we can change the way the deaf community are able to seek help.

I’ve been diagnosed with depression twice. The first time I was given anti-depressants. I threw them away. Taking them wasn’t going to solve the problem and I didn’t want to just numb myself. The second time I had been struggling with my studies and felt overwhelmed. I remember going back to my parents for a weekend. They could see I was different. It wasn’t until my mum asked if I was ok in the morning that I completely broke. I cried for an entire weekend. Although there was no specific reason, I couldn’t stop. This was less than a year ago. I have a great support network in my family, friends and partner, for which I am very grateful. It doesn’t change the way my mind functions. It’s not something that everyone else is lucky to have. I was referred to a therapist for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.

I received a phone call to discuss my symptoms. It was a long phone call. What my therapist won’t have understood is that a lot of my symptoms are associated with my hearing loss so the call would’ve made me feel worse. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I became angry about my deafness because it impacted on me in so many ways. The constant frustration of not knowing what was going on when announcements were made on the tube and the general ignorance of most hearing people.

Most people that know me may be surprised by the revelation of my depression; it’s understandable when I’ve invested a lot of my time in appearing happy and having fun. I try to always enjoy what I’m doing and most of the time I am genuinely feeling good. But what most people don’t see are the mornings, afternoons and sometimes the entire days that are lost to my bed in an attempt to not have to deal with anything. They don’t see the anxiety I feel when I have to leave the house or the fear of going into an unknown social situation. They may consider my last minute cancellations are rude instead of crippling fear.

I’ve lost a ridiculous amount of jobs due to this. I have a morning where I convince myself where the prospect of dealing with people is worse than not attending, and then the prospect of communicating or confrontation with a superior is completely overwhelming to the point of no return. It changes what jobs I apply for; do I want to deal with people? Do I want to potentially mess things up because I didn’t hear correctly?

There’s a stigma attached to depression too. A lot of people will avoid telling an employer about their mental health due to their responsibilities being restricted or the potential whispers down the hallway due to too much alcohol at the office party and secrets being spilled. The fear exacerbates the depression, which drags you into a descent like you’re being pulled down by a weight around your ankle.

These are some of the symptoms associated with depression:

 

  • Not going out anymore, loss of interest in enjoyable activities
  • Withdrawing from close family and friends
  • Being unable to concentrate and not getting things done at work or school
  • Feeling overwhelmed, indecisive and lacking in confidence
  • Increased alcohol and drug use
  • Loss or change of appetite and significant weight loss or gain
  • Trouble getting to sleep, staying asleep and being tired during the day
  • Feeling worthless, helpless and guilty
  • Increased irritability, frustration and moodiness
  • Feeling unhappy, sad or miserable most of the time
  • Thoughts such as, “I’m a failure”, “Life’s not worth living”, “People would be better off without me”

 

As always, there is a lack of access for those with depression that are also deaf. The isolation already faced is challenging enough, when coupled communication, the encouragement of seeking help is lost amongst all the phone numbers advising you to call. E-mail isn’t always quick enough but to some, the prospect of speaking of the phone is impossible thus adding to the isolation.

I think we should start a dialogue with the charities that focus on helping those with mental health to address some of the barriers. Charities are a great source of help for most but sometimes we need that little bit extra care and attention. As it currently stands Samaritans offer a phone number, e-mail and pop in services. I think live text should be added to this service. The technology is there and even if it helps just one person, it’s worth it. Mind offer a text service but in limited hours and usually just to offer a call back service.

 

http://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you/contact-us

http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/helplines/

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/mental-health-helplines.aspx

 

These link to sites that offer advice for dealing with your depression

 

http://www.deafinfo.org.uk/wellbeing/depression.html

http://www.hearinglink.org/emotions

 

If anyone can think of a way to reach out to the Samaritans to get them to consider and potentially implement a live chat option – all options considered!!

 

by Kimberley Lucas.

 

 

 

(One can also read Sara’s post called “A Few of My Favourite Things” which she wrote in order to try and help other people with too.)

A Show of Gratitude.

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift; that’s why they call it the present.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt.

gift

On this exceptionally memorable date, I would like to extend my annual show of gratitude to the doctors and nurses of Charing Cross Hospital who several years ago gave me the best birthday present one could ever ask for. 

A second chance to cherish life and being able to watch my beautiful children grow up of which I intend to make the most of.

I never ask for much but I would very much appreciate it if you too could show your gratitude to our NHS services, especially the Doctors and Nurses who devote and dedicate so much of their time and passion to ensure we get the best care around the clock – please could you join forces against any NHS closures and get involved?

For if Charing Cross Hospital had closed down then, I would not be around today.

And last but not least, to our beloved Tree House and its dwellers for creating such a unique place without any barriers.

It is what we all make it.

Please accept this dedicated post as a token of my gratitude for being true to yourselves.

Thank YOU, to each and every single one of you, my family and my friends – for putting up with me 😉

Carpe Diem – Everyday x

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

Sick Of It by Samantha.

Sick-Of-It-logo-300x300

During SignHealth’s recent “Sick Of It” event which many of us followed online be it via Twitter and/or Facebook, upon reading examples were being given that patients had to put pen to paper, Sara seized the day and tweeted them her article “Pen and paper“. Much to her surprise, she was tweeted back asking her if “The Tree House” would be interested in publishing them? Of course we were! It will always be our honour to assist in giving those a voice to be “heard”, on an equal and united basis – regardless.

The "Sick Of It" campaign by SignHealth.

The “Sick Of It” campaign by SignHealth.

My name is Samantha and I’m a Communications Researcher at SignHealth. For the last five years, our team have been researching Deaf people’s health with the University of Bristol, to get hard evidence about the barriers Deaf people face. We named our campaign ‘Sick Of It’ and on March 25th we held a conference to launch our findings. Myself, my colleague Freya, (our Communications Assistant) and the rest of the team have been working together to bring the report to life.

My work started with a trip across the country, filming individuals from the Deaf community in Glasgow, Manchester, Yorkshire and London. I met with each person, working with a researcher from the University of Bristol to interview each one and to get an understanding of their healthcare experiences as a Deaf person. Their stories were shocking. We showed some of the case studies at the conference to add a human touch; we wanted to make an impact on hearing health professionals to show that Deaf people’s problems are serious and real.

On the day of the conference Freya had a huge presence in spreading the word about Sick Of It via Facebook and Twitter.  She was behind the non-stop live commentary that was given all day long, to ensure everyone outside the conference, especially Deaf people, were being kept up to date.

The online event and the whole Sick Of It campaign is proving to be a success. We have received numerous emails from health professionals across the country wanting to make changes for the better for their Deaf patients!  That’s what we want to hear!

As I’m Deaf and a BSL user, I have had my fair share of experiencing ignorance and inequalities in the health service. My opinion about the Sick Of It campaign is that it’s wholly important and about time, too!  Deaf people have been neglected, received poor treatment and have missed diagnoses – it’s been going on far too long.  Enough is enough!

Enough is enough! Sick of it.

Enough is enough! Sick of it.

Our campaign strives to raise awareness amongst health professionals that provide services for Deaf people.  At the moment, it is not good enough and Deaf people are not being treated equally, especially because of poor communication.  We are fighting for equal rights for Deaf people and we want to see the day where Deaf people are able to communicate with health professionals without barriers; services and health information being made available in BSL for Deaf people whose first language is BSL; their general health being the same with that of hearing people; reducing the chance of missed diagnoses, therefore being able to stay as healthy as possible.  We also want Deaf people to know their rights and to encourage them to take responsibility for their own health.

As part of our Sick Of It campaign, we have introduced a section called ‘Prescriptions for Change’, demanding that all the issues raised from our research are addressed and solved. Changes have to happen; they are simple and inexpensive!  Actually, by making our recommended changes, the NHS will save £30 million a year!  To check what our recommendations for Prescriptions for Change are, go to www.sick-of-it.com. We have English and BSL versions of the Sick Of It report on our website because we aim to cater for everyone!

Our work is not yet done. There’s still lots to do; the health inequalities Deaf people experience everyday aren’t going to end overnight, and we continue to campaign for long term changes, better Deaf awareness and for all health professionals to think twice, putting themselves in Deaf people’s shoes!

This is just the start!

By Samantha.

Sam & the girls.

Sam & the girls.

Please feel free to find SignHealth on Twitter, Facebook and their website.

The Tree House would also like to wish SignHealth, Samantha and her team, all the best with their Sick Of It campaign. We admire all the hard work they have put into this and will continue to follow with great interest.

Carpe diem – Every day x

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One rather hazy summer, during the cool comforts of the night I was disturbed by a pin pricking sensation from within, in my stomach. I turned myself over in search of a cooler spot to try and return to my favourite place, a world of silence mentally and emotionally – Sleep. This sensation continued for a few days, even though I was not exhibiting any other symptoms I decided to grace the GP with the pleasure of my company, a visit to say “Hi” and for my peace of mind, for my children’s sake.

The GP turned out to be a locum who I had met a few times previously. I explained despite my deafness as best as I could, what was bothering me. “Hmmmm” She said, doing a check on my stomach. “You need to have an ultrasound scan which I will send off right now, for you.” I looked at her in wonder and accepted her decision without question.

I had to wait, for a phone call?! They (who would be doing the scan) would be contacting me to make an appointment. Feeling unnecessarily stressed, at the thought alone of a phone call since I cannot answer it or make the appointment myself, being profoundly deaf from birth. I have never been able to decide whether to be amused or perplexed at phone calls requiring my immediate attention so I usually end up combining the two, especially when they know I am deaf.

Damn…. The referral form for the scan was not accepted apparently due to some errors on it so the GP had to refer me once again. This was two weeks later from the date I last saw them. Quite spontaneously, I spotted my husband looking at the calendar, talking hesitantly…. I had hoped he wasn’t talking to himself! Too many times I had spied lone passer by’s talking and I do a double take out of care to make sure they were not vulnerable…. Only to realise short moments later, they were holding a conversation over their mobile phone. Relief overcame me finally finding out I had an appointment for a scan. I was still feeling that niggling pain and it started to prey on my mind, just a tad.

The scan date was not for another week but waking up to each brand new dawn, I anticipated it that bit more. To finally know the cause of this mysterious symptom which was starting to make me feel just a little bit nauseous. As one would say, “Patience is a virtue” and I have a lot of patience for only those that deserve it.

The nurse prodded and scanned me relentlessly with her probe, for an hour and a half. Escaping the room, only to return with her colleague in tow for a second opinion. By then, the atmosphere had turned ominous. The look on my husband’s face was one of concern. We tried in vain to hide this emotion from our children, pretending it was natural to have a scan, for so long. The nurse looked at me and said, “Your doctor will phone you within the next few days.” Another phone call?! I decided not to let these phone calls get the better of me as it seemed somewhat trivial compared to my health. Even though I felt physically fine and looked extremely healthy, I knew I was becoming seriously unwell. I have on occasion been blessed with premonitions and instincts so I started silently mentally preparing myself to embark onto a solo ride.

That night I ended up in A&E due to a bout of bad pains that was slowly subsiding… the emergency doctor there put it down to ‘Ovarian Cysts’. Which I was rather dubious of but she was qualified so she must have known what she was doing? The kids enjoyed the late night outing nonetheless.

A few days passed by slowly yet still no phone call came. Thoughts were trying to creep into our minds so in order to take a break from being on standby, we decided to take the kids to enjoy the wondrous weather and Mother Nature in our local park. Yes, you guessed it – we missed the phone call?! Sod’s law at its best. Fate works in mysterious ways. I was invited back to see my usual doctor and could I come in as soon as possible? Relatively, an appointment was made. “You have a mass in your stomach and you need to go down to A&E – now!”… Looking serious at me with such concern. “Okay” I reluctantly agreed… Wondering what this next part of the ride would consist of. You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf. Hence, going with the flow suits me so. Once again, I had to go with the flow.

Walking home cautiously, wondering what to say to my husband as a potential immediate holiday overseas to attend a family wedding was in the pipelines.

Honesty is the best policy. “I have to go to A&E now, they are expecting me” I told him sincerely. The GP had phoned ahead to let them know I was on my way. She had chosen this hospital for a good reason – they had at present one of the best oncology departments.

Another ride out for the kids once again oblivious to our worry and deep in thoughts. Innocent with their childlike ways. I did not have to wait very long at all in the reception area, I was ushered onto a bed and incessant questions were asked. treating me as if I was a pin cushion because they could not find a vein which had become the norm for me. I explained how one night I had this surreal experience of my chest turning ice cold, I could not breathe or feel my chest. I decided to lay upon the sofa and stay calm, riding it through. What must have been only thirty seconds felt like never ending minutes. Suddenly, much to my relief, I felt my chest resume beating away and myself breathing again…. Which had scarily happened twice on separate occasions. This seemed to give the nurses some more cause for concern. They immediately wired me up, monitoring my heart beat and at once, admitted me onto a ward.

The time came to bid my children goodnight as I had to remain on the ward while they returned to the comforts of their home. I hate goodbyes and this was one of the hardest goodbyes I have ever had to endure. The look on their sweet angelic faces as they turned away to leave was imprinted on my mind the rest of the night – It is still imprinted to this day which breaks my heart.

However, I had to fast with each day I remained as I was on the emergency waiting list for a CAT scan. Yet again, a few days more had passed before my turn under the CAT scan came…. To that date, it was a total of almost five weeks since I first presented myself with what I thought was a tiny, simple, trivial symptom. My instincts had informed me otherwise.

My consent was needed for them to carry out an operation the very next day, “to investigate” the cause. To observe with their own eyes what the mass was. I willingly gave them my autograph, for free.

Overnight, I felt endless chills and asked for extra blankets. This was early August so the nurses started monitoring me. Were they not telling me the whole story? I pondered.

More fasting as it was now operation day. I would finally know the cause for certain and hoped to be put onto the road of recovery. To be reunited with my children. I had been contemplating discharging myself and going home as I could not bear the children visiting me each day only to say goodbye but thankfully, I decided not to listen to that call for emotional peace.

Extreme nausea overcame me and I rapidly deteriorated, severely vomiting green liquid numerous times. The dividing screens were slowly draped around my bed and a dutiful nurse stayed by my side. Taking my temperature every so often and passing me the sick bowls. My husband arrived with the children only to take one look at me before his face dropped with worry. My skin had turned grey, my eyes were sunken…. I was drifting in and out of sleep due to the sickness and anti-nausea medication. I did not want my children’s last memories of me to be ones being in this state so I asked him to take them out, treat them to a meal and have some fun. Which he obliged to and during the meal, my son’s milk tooth finally fell out – biting a burger! They thoughtfully sent a media message to show me his new smile which relatively made my heart smile.

Sporting brand new hospital wristbands, the nurse noticed the matching dates on it. She looked at me with such kindness and exclaimed “Happy birthday!” I managed a smile back albeit weakly to thank her. There stood a porter at the end of my bed, waiting to whisk me away to the very top floor of the building, the fifteenth floor I think it was. I envisaged myself going to a ball in the penthouse suite. “Happy birthday!” someone else exclaimed after examining my wristbands to make sure I was their correct patient. I smiled weakly once more, to express my acknowledgement and gratitude. Pausing outside the “penthouse suite” my heart started to frantically thump away, my mind wanted to travel everywhere. I sternly told myself to remain calm and that “What will be, will be, I will survive if I am meant to” and mentally said my goodbyes to everyone I loved, there and then before slipping away into a void of darkness.

Sensing systematic lights were passing by overhead, I was groggily beginning to wake up and realising I successfully made it through. I was being trolleyed to another ward, trying to make sense of what had happened from the dressings and drains on/in my stomach. Endless tubes seemed to be everywhere. I feebly asked the attending nurse “What happened?” She responded “You had a ruptured appendix… The doctor will come and see you very soon.” Reassuring me I was in safe hands. I felt secure enough to drift off into a world of my own, to sleep.

The doctor’s face when he visited me relatively soon after I woke up, was a sign of relief. He was extremely worried that I would not survive as I should not have done. It is only because I was young, healthy, did not consume alcohol or smoke that my body did its job fighting the already ruptured appendix and internal abscesses it caused. My body had sealed it off; my entire stomach had stuck together which gave the doctors one hell of a cleaning job to do and it turned out to be one that took them quite some time. He told me whilst tapping the wooden bed table “You are extremely lucky.” Words seemed to fail him but I got the gist. For them, I was the centre of attention but I was too ill to know it. Naturally, I thanked them all for their help yet words too would not suffice my expressions of gratitude.

This confirmed how high my pain threshold was. No pain no gain?!

carpe diem photo2

If it had not been for modern medicine and professionals, I most certainly would not be around today to watch my beautiful children grow up into content, richly educated in life, adults. The emergency operation fatefully done on my birthday, some may say would add insult to injury but not for me. It gave me a second chance, a rebirth. Since experiencing a further two close calls within the subsequent year, I now cherish each and everything in my life. The warmth of the sun, the drops of refreshing rain upon my face, the tastes I sense, the laughter which is music to my eyes and ears… To put it simply, the beauty of it all. Life is too short and I for one know just how short it can be. Despite this, I observe many more people being ungrateful, being trivial, being petty, and being negative. This only frustrates me even more so and then some. I have learnt to try and put them aside until the appropriate moment arises to try and open their eyes, in order to educate regarding priorities, importance and positivity. Unfortunately, some people will never learn.

With each birthday that passes me by, I annually extend my gratitude to the doctors and nurses who gave me the best birthday present ever one could ask for. A second chance at life. Thank you.

I intend to make the most of my second chance so “Thank you” in advance, to each and every one of you, my family and my friends – for putting up with me.

Carpe diem – Every day x

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

(Photo1 – a birthday present which I seized last birthday for myself, my motto “Carpe diem” tattooed for posterity as is this blog

Photo 2 – flowers and a home made get well card from the kids and my husband)